Cyber Security - A new reality

By Gareth Ballah
V.P. ICT Services
January 11, 2021
Cyber Security - A new reality main image

We already know of the severe economic effect the pandemic has caused globally. This disruption to business operations and financial dismantle are issues Boards have been focused on to maintain business continuity. As we get further along in navigating the challenges of covid-19, the way forward has become a bit clearer and management is now able to step back and take a broad look at how best we can prepare for the future. Solid cyber security strategy is at the forefront of these future-proof solutions for post-covid resilience.

Cyber Security technology and solution providers such as TSL have prioritized the immediate needs of the business community. Those needs being remote work and business continuity, and both go hand-in-hand. In the age of the current pandemic, remote work requires secure remote access to corporate data, files and tools and business continuity requires an effective business model that allows for rapid transition to secure digital operations.

Covid-19 has affected TSL’s work culture in many ways but the most significant would be the transition to remote work. Overnight, we had over 70% of our employees working from a remote location accessing our corporate resources via their private home networks. This meant immediate added security challenges for our IT team and we needed to quickly ensure that our security measures had everyone covered no matter where they were. In the last few months there have been several reports of remote teams coming under attack as hackers are aware of the gaps created by remote teams and the new volume of workers remotely accessing the network.

This acceleration to digital transformation brought on by the pandemic has also directed organizations towards cloud-based solutions. Why? The use of cloud resources provide agility and allows for ease of scalability that will help organizations navigate this crisis as seamlessly as possible. This scalability and ease of management can mean a reduction in IT staff count, or a redirection in effort/roles from managing Virtual machines and on-prem applications to development (DevOps). However, there are major security implications associated with integrating cloud resources into business operations. Cloud infrastructure is constantly evolving, and native cloud security solutions are often outpaced by threats and risk.

Risks of cloud applications

The more data and applications we move to the cloud, the more gateways we create for threat actors to take advantage of. Most Cloud providers boast of their security measures. Time has, however, proven that the native security provided by the cloud is insufficient, particularly in email. It has become necessary to adopt additional layers of security. Organizations require a CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker) between their cloud infrastructure and on-Prem or “Home infrastructure” to protect their employees from these looming threats.

The benefits derived from using this CASB are numerous but include:

These brokers are easy to implement and once installed and configured they can be as simple as “set it and forget it”. It is up to the software/service provider to ensure their products are constantly updated. Therefore, when selecting a solution provider, businesses must ensure there is sufficient emphasis on research and development which is an area TSL’s partner, Check Point Software Technologies allocates significant resources and budgets to.

Collaboration tools

With many of our employees now working from home, like the rest of the world, we immediately got familiar with collaboration tools like Teams, Slack and Zoom. Many companies have become painfully aware that firewalls and other traditional security solutions they had relied on in the past simply could not keep up with the acceleration of risks brought on by the adoption of these tools. It is no secret as the vulnerability of these collaboration tools has made recent headlines. This sudden spike in collaboration tool usage is exactly what hackers have been waiting for. With thousands of messages containing private company information going back-and-forth all day, IT teams need to have a way to identify risks quickly.

As employees take their corporate IT assets home, they are no longer protected by the company’s Next generation Firewalls. Do you have a firewall installed to protect your home network? Do you think your employees do? The reality is that most people do not which further increases possibility of a security breach and added pressure to IT teams. There has been a shift over the past few years from traditional Anti-Virus to what is now termed EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response). EDR now contains most of the features of a Next Gen Firewall on the Endpoints, including Anti Ransomware and DLP (Data Loss Prevention).

As part of this increased security posture, it is necessary to confirm the identity of those connecting to our corporate networks using strategies such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Most of our local banks now use MFA to secure users of their online/mobile banking platforms using applications provided from another TSL partner, Entrust. Typically, any authentication process that goes any further than a request for a password was considered a bother but the use of Multi -Factor Authentication has become more prevalent over the past few years as organizations recognize breaches getting more sophisticated by the day. The enemy of security is convenience and what was formerly seen as an inconvenience has become a necessity. So much so that we have found that our business partners are requesting that we use MFA for our VPN/Remote connections to our network, to ensure their corporate data is not leaked.

A new corporate culture

A key factor in an organization’s cyber strategy that is often forgotten is the cultivating of a robust cyber security culture of awareness. Cyber security culture is a sub-component of company culture and should be encouraged by managers not just in IT roles, but in every department. Constantly educating employees on the implications of simple, seemingly “mindless” actions and informing them of potential threats and attacks plays a major role in a successful strategy. It has become increasingly obvious that a company’s cyber security strategy is not just technical but also requires organizational and interpersonal measures for a high success rate.

The truth is that no cyber security company or provider is immune to threat, so it is crucial as a customer seeking these services to talk risk management and mitigation with any potential provider. How quick are they able to respond when they are alerted? What are their first steps taken strategically and tactically when they are alerted? A provider’s track record of quick resolution is a key indicator of their competence to protect your business and should be one of the first things an organization considers when in the market for a cyber security provider.

As organizations worldwide ramp up their digital capabilities and network infrastructure to be able to support this increased dependency on digital operations, cyber security remains at the core of ensuring collective resilience during these times.

TSL, together with technology we provide through our partners such as Check Point and Entrust, is committed to delivering the most secure solutions and connectivity to our clients and their remote operations to ensure seamless business connectivity during these challenging times and as transition into a post-pandemic world